September Jobless Statement
September 2, 2011
As people of faith, we continue to be concerned about our country's slow economic recovery. With this month's release of unemployment rates, we see yet another sign that while economists may say that the recession has ended the reality of unemployment and under-employment remains true for millions of Americans-particularly those often left on the margins of the conversation about economic recovery. The unemployment rate in the month of August remained the same at 9.1%, the same as in July. While the total jobless number is 14 million, there were also no new jobs created in August. There remains a startling 6 million who are long term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more), which accounts for 42.9% of the unemployed population. Among specific worker groups the unemployment for adult men was 8.9%, adult women 8%, whites 8%, blacks 16.7%, Hispanics 11.3%, and Asians 7.1%.
Hispanics account for about one-seventh of the U.S. labor force, but comprise nearly one out of five unemployed people according to a May 2010 Los Angeles Times article. Hispanics are the fastest growing ethnic group in the United States. They also happen to be one of the racial/ethnic groups hardest hit by the recent recession. A 2010 report by the Congressional Joint Economic Committee found that the recession derailed gains Hispanics had achieved in previous years. In May 2006, when the U.S. economy was stable and doing well, Hispanic unemployment was at 4.9%-just slightly higher than the overall national unemployment rate. But by October 2009, the Hispanic unemployment rate had surged by 13.7%, 3% higher than the overall rate.
According to the March 2011 U.S. Department of Labor report, "The Hispanic Labor Force in the Recovery," the group most significantly affected by the recession is Hispanic youth (ages 16-19). Hispanic youth have a much higher unemployment rate than do adults-averaging a rate of 32.2% in 2010. This rate fell only slightly to 30.6% by February 2011. As the report states "Not only has the unemployment rate remained high, but a large number of Hispanic teens are no longer in the labor force-either working or looking for work." While a larger number of Hispanics are in school than years past, there are still a rather large percentage of teens that are not in school, not working, and currently not looking for a job. As studies have shown, a significant of gap in employment early on in life, will affect a workers wage level in the future.
A number of economists state that the recession has been particularly hard on this group of Americans because Hispanics have been a significant part of the industries hardest hit by the recession-particularly construction, agriculture, and manufacturing. They are also under-represented in certain growth industries like education and healthcare. As some sectors of the economy slowly recover from the recession, the industries Hispanics rely upon continue to struggle. For example, according to the Census, spending on construction declined 4.7% between June 2010 and June 2011.
As we consider these monthly reflections of our economy's health, we remind our elected officials that they must act now on legislation that aims to create jobs and strengthen our economy for those who are at greatest risk of impoverishment and hardship, including Hispanic Americans. Legislation that targets particular industries should keep in mind the areas where Hispanics traditionally find work. As scripture tells us, "Speak out for those who cannot speak, for the rights of all the destitute. Speak out, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and the needy." (Proverbs 31:8-9)
American Friends Service Committee
Church of the Brethren
Disciples Justice Action Network
The Episcopal Church
Friends Committee on National Legislation
Interfaith Worker Justice
Jewish Council for Public Affairs
Mennonite Central Committee U.S., Washington office
National Advocacy Center Sisters of the Good Shepherd
National Council of Jewish Women
NETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby
Office of Social Justice and Hunger; Christian Reformed Church in North America
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Office of Public Witness
Sisters of Mercy Institute of Justice Team
The United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries
Union for Reform Judaism
The United Methodist Church-General Board of Church and Society